Applying for a patent in the UK is a complex process and getting an application granted can take years to complete. In this guide, we’ll demystify the process and teach you how to apply for a UK patent with success.

The Basics of Patenting

Companies or individuals apply for a patent (a type of intellectual property right) when they wish to protect an invention or idea. When applying for a patent, the applicant must be confident the invention is novel (new) and involve an inventive step (not be obvious).

Although you can apply for a patent by yourself, it’s a complicated process involving various legal documents. To simplify the process, many applicants seek help from a qualified patent attorney and the UK Intellectual Property Office recommends this.

Preparing the Patent Application

Before you begin applying for a patent, we recommend carrying out a search on existing patent information and publications to make sure your idea is new. Once you’re sure your idea is eligible, it’s time to prepare your application.

To apply for a patent in the UK, you must first draft a patent specification. This vital document needs to include a written description and drawings but should include the following:

  • Abstract: a brief summary of your invention which includes the technical features.
  • Drawings: illustrates the embodiment of your invention with high-quality drawings including various angles or even cross-sectional views.
  • Claims: define the scope of protection and include the novel technical features of your invention that are essential to how it works.
  • Written description: include a description of how your product works and how it can be created and put to use.

The contents of your specification will highly influence the likelihood of your patent being granted, so it’s best to seek assistance from a qualified professional and make it count.

Filing the Patent Application

After drafting your patent specification, it’s time to file your application at the UK Intellectual Property Office. If a patent attorney created your patent specification, it’s strongly advisable they file to avoid any procedural errors and keep track of deadlines.

Patent Examination and Office Actions

For your patent to be granted, the Intellectual Property Office must conduct a substantive examination to confirm your invention is novel and non-obvious. Approximately 18 months after filing, your patent application publication will be made available for anyone to see. However, this does not mean your patent has been granted.

After filing your patent, an examiner will carefully assess whether your invention meets the criteria for a patent. During this period, they may carry out office actions such as requesting further clarification, objections, or amendments. You will need to respond to these office actions promptly and clearly to ensure your application is successful.

If the examiner concludes the patent specification does not meet the criteria, your application will be refused. You may appeal this decision with the Intellectual Property Office Tribunal or the Patents Court at the High Court of England and Wales.

Issuance and Maintenance of the Patent

Once your application is approved, you must focus your efforts on patent maintenance. You will need to renew your patent on the fourth anniversary of your filing as well as every year after that. Additionally, you will be responsible for enforcing and defending your patent against infringement.

Bear in mind this information only applies to the UK, for a worldwide patent application, you must file an international (PCT) patent application.  Overseas patents can also be filed using national and regional patent application routes.